Making a Difference, for Decades
Ed Ewing (pictured) was an instructor in Virginia Tech's Department of Communication from its founding in the late 1970s until he retired in 1998. Ewing died May 14, but the scholarship he created in 1992 will continue his legacy of helping students. In a video shot in 2004 he discussed the importance of studying abroad.
To understand the impact former instructor Ed Ewing has had on thousands of students in Virginia Tech's Department of Communication, ask Associate Professor Emeritus Edd Sewell, who calls Ewing the most humane, student-oriented colleague he's known in 35-plus years at Virginia Tech.
Or you can just tune into the evening news broadcast from WSET ABC Lynchburg, one of many media organizations that employs people that Ewing, who died May 14, helped prepare for their careers.
The Lynchburg, Va., station's news director, Bill Foy (communication '77), credits Ewing with helping him land an internship that set him on the road to a broadcasting career. And one of its on-air reporters, Brian Damewood (communication '08) is the 2007 recipient of a scholarship Ewing endowed with his wife Jane, also deceased.
Foy was one of the first graduates from the communication program. Damewood is one of its most recent. They are just two of the countless people that Ewing has helped, not only during his teaching career, but through his philanthropy.
"There's no doubt he's had a lot of impact on the lives of people who went into the communications field and those who took his class but went on to do other things," Foy said prior to Ewing's death. "He's one of those guys who have just reached a whole lot of people during their time."
That time did not end when Ewing retired from the communication department in 1998. Thanks to the scholarship the Ewings created in 1992, students who never knew him as a teacher are able to broaden their educations by studying in other countries -- countries like Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, and, in Damewood's case, Australia.
"Ed Ewing's scholarship gave me the opportunity to truly become a traveled person," Damewood says. "Never again in my life will I be able to spend a month living in another country … talking with the residents, and just learning how life is different for everyone. Particularly in the field of news reporting, you've got to be open to other people's views and their scope of what life is. If anything can make someone more accepting of others, and really appreciate each culture's differences, it's traveling abroad."
Associate Professor Rachel Holloway, who will step down as communication department head in July, says the Ewings understood the importance of international study even before it was widely accepted.
"Ed and Jane deeply valued their interactions with people from around the world and wanted to encourage undergraduate students to grow through international travel and study," Holloway says. "For professional communicators, an understanding of our global connections is essential."
Ewing served in World War II, attended Ohio University on the G.I. Bill, and earned a business degree, with an emphasis on writing for radio. His first broadcasting job was WLW in Columbus, Ohio. He later worked at same broadcasting group’s station in Cincinnati.
After relocating to Roanoke, Va., Ewing produced news programs including Panorama, and traveled with television crews to film live shows and interviews throughout Virginia. He also produced and directed "Klassroom Kwiz", "Top of the Morning", and an early morning children's show, in which he was the voice for three hand puppets and would talk with Irving Sharp about current events.
In 1974, Ewing earned a master's in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech, where he would teach the next three decades. In April 2009, he was inducted into the Ut Prosim Society, a recognition bestowed on the university's most generous donors.
When asked in early May why he and his wife wanted to help students travel as part of their studies, Ewing said: "You can't sit in a classroom and gain what you can get if you're out there mixing with people from another culture. So it seemed like a golden opportunity to give back."
A Celebration of Ewing's life will be held at 4 p.m. in Roanoke on May 23, 2009, casual dress. Anyone interested in attending should contact Lou Ellis or Becky Ellis at 540/344-1757 for the venue.
Ewing's family has suggested that any contributions be directed toward the Edwin J. and Jane M. Ewing Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, account No. 883630, Virginia Tech Foundation, Blacksburg, Va., 24061.
Learn more about scholarships for Virginia Tech students.